Klown Kamp Massacre (2010)
I genuinely don’t think so. I believe that in the distant past, clowns were, like Halloween, feared by all, but that over subsequent years, commercialization softened that fear, eclipsing it with fun. Once, the hills ran red with the blood of living sacrifices on All Hallow’s Eve; now we dress our kids up and send them out on a race to get diabetes. But clowns are too potent a horror to be sanitized so easily. Some have suggested that a fear of clowns stems from early childhood experience, when infants, still trying to process facial feature recognition, are traumatized by the aberrations in the features and color in a clown’s face. But no, in fact clowns are just pure nastiness (so are infants, actually, but that’s another story).
You think it’s just a case of coulrophobia (look it up)? Think again. Name a good clown. Go on! Oh, James Stewart was Buttons the Clown in THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH (1953), and Jimmy Stewart couldn’t be bad, could he? Wrong! His character was also a doctor who murdered his wife! There’s Krusty, who’s funny, but would you trust his merchandise with your kids? No, the darkness outweighs the light. And pop culture is rife with evidence of this: Pennywise, the Joker, John Wayne Gacy, Insane Clown Posse, Captain Spaulding in HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, Shakes the Clown, the Clown Doll in POLTERGEIST, Ronald McDonald…
So it’s only natural that we have horror films where the clowns are the villains: the aforementioned Pennywise in STEPHEN KING’S IT, KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE, KILLJOY, CLOWNHOUSE, and many others. But Philip Gunn and David Valdez’s KLOWN KAMP MASSACRE (2010) gives us a movie where the clowns are both the villains *and* the victims. Could it work?
We open with shaky video dated 1991. Are we being treated to another Found Footage POS? Thankfully not; the man holding the camcorder is Edwin (Jared Herholtz), narrating to his mother about how his time at Bonzo’s Clown Ranch is not going too well. We can see that for ourselves, as we bear witness to Edwin scalping, brain eating, slitting throats and choking people to death with rubber chickens.
No, not going too well at all.
This footage is soon shown to be part of a true crime TV show called Unsolved Clown Murders. A show which you’d think would have limited material to work from, until some channel surfing reveals that this is not the world we know. Though it is never explicitly stated, KLOWN KAMP MASSACRE takes place in a Sliders-type parallel Earth where clowns are normal, even ubiquitous: clowns read the news, engage in political debates, sing, even do soft porn (you’re saying Yuck now, but you ain’t seen nothing yet). It’s a weird but interesting angle on what could have been just a pedestrian horror entry, and serves no purpose except possibly to explain why anyone would want to be a fucking clown.
The unseen man channel surfing now stops at a commercial featuring legendary clown Bonzo (Mike Miller, PAUL, FRIGHT NIGHT). Bonzo’s been a lovable figure on TV for years, despite questions over a past association with the Klown Klux Klan (notorious for lynching mimes and performance artists). And now, after nearly two decades, he’s reopening his Clown Ranch. This is news which freaks out our viewer.
Gee, I wonder who he is?
Some prospective clowns start arriving at the remote ranch. These include rookie clown Philbert (Ross Kelly, THE STINK OF FLESH), magic-wielding clown Puff (Chris Payne, CHUCK), nerd clown Gerald (Daniel Guiterrez), gangsta clown Buzter Pie (Isaac Kappy, FANBOYS, TERMIANTOR: SALVATION), and Squirts (Sandor Gattyan), a clown who is also a serial flasher and masturbator. Along the way, they meet Crazy Ernie (Kevin R Elder, ROMEO AND JULET VS THE LIVING DEAD), who warns them of a Death Curse at Bonzo’s Ranch – or is it at the neighboring Camp Sparkly Lake? There are also female clowns, including Valerie (Ashley Brice, GIMME SKELTER), Bonzo’s granddaughter, who has more issues to her than Mad Magazine – and a hippie chick clown who gets picked up along the way by a mysterious driver in a VW Beetle, gets topless and then gets killed by the driver.
Gee, I wonder who he is?
The recruits go through intensive training in such tactics as long-distance pie throwing from the ranch’s drill sergeant Thaddeus Funnybone (Miguel Martinez, ARMY OF THE DEAD). And that night, Buzter tells the story of Edwin to the others, how the young recruit proved to be the most unfunny clown in the history of everything, and how his rejection made him snap and kill everyone. Later, he says it’s all bullshit – but now staff and recruits are being bumped off in various grisly, clownish ways…
Horror and comedy don’t often mix well, but writers/directors Gunn and Valdez manage it, balancing the absurd and grotesque while also paying fairly faithful homage to the great movies: you’ll see and hear visual, musical and dialogue clues to such classics as HALLOWEEN, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, EVIL DEAD, CHRISTINE, FRIDAY THE 13TH and RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. It successfully captures the look and feel of one of those low-budget slashers from the 70s/80s, and the murders are varied, even if the gore and blood will stray into Over the Top Troma Territory (Troma distributed this, and Troma’s own Lloyd Kaufman makes a surprising cameo). Still, the murders are in keeping with the clown motif, especially one involving a face full of acid in a seltzer bottle.
The motif runs through the rest of the movie. There are clown groupies, a clown orgy, kung-fu clown monkeys, and exploding cream pies (with Looney Tunes-style dynamite sticking out!). The humor lies more in the ideas and the actions than in the dialogue, but then clowning is supposed to be a visual art, anyway. And yet it also works when it dips into pure horror in the climax, as Edwin tries to finally make someone laugh with his captive audience – even if he has to kill them to do it.
And KLOWN KAMP MASSACRE has an ending which I did not expect at all. I will not spoil it, of course, but to be honest I’m not sure whether I liked it or not. It was certainly in keeping with the weird parallel reality we’re presented with here, where clowns have multicolored pubes and people can run around speeded-up Benny Hill style.
Don’t come to this movie looking for something elegant and regal. This is strictly a beer and pizza movie, a lot of fun in both the comedy and the horror elements, is wonderfully disgusting in all the right places (Squirts’ demise is particularly yucky if appropriate), and the pace never lags. See for yourself and check out the trailer below. The DVD is available on Amazon and other sources, or you can go to the film’s website here, where you can purchase the DVD direct from them. The DVD is good in that you get decent audio commentary from the cast and directors, as well as a few short films from Gunn and Valdez. While not as outrageous as KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE, there is fun to be had here.
Directors (and writers): Philip Gunn and David Valdez
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 6 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien